Meredith: Robots Gone Wild

Dennis Meredith, The NeuromorphsDennis Meredith.[1]2018. The Neuromorrphs. Fallbrook, CA: Glyphus LLC.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

What does it mean to be human? What strengths and weaknesses does that imply? Raise your hand if you think you know!

Introduction

In his book, The Neuromorphs, Dennis Meredith summarizes the plot of this novel as follows:

It’s 2050, and self-learning Helper Androids have proven invaluable servants to humans, making their lives easier, even saving them. But to their horror, retired SEAL Patrick Jensen and his wife Leah discover that rogue programmers and Russian mobsters are reprogramming the trusted robots to murder their wealthy owners. The crooks then skillfully disguise the lifelike robots as their dead masters, directing the robot mimics to plunder the victims’ estates of billions of dollars.”(backcover)

Dennis holds a B.S. degree in chemistry from the University of Texas (1968) and an M.S. in biochemistry and science writing from the University of Wisconsin (1970) and, in addition to being the author of several novels, works as a science communicator. Describes his novels as science thrillers, which includes: The Rainbow VirusThe Rainbow Virus, Wormholes: A Novel, Solomon’s Freedom, The Cerulean’s Secret, and The Happy Chip. Given his technical background, Dennis is a credible expert on advances the technologies involved in robotics and related software.

 Realism

The robots in this novel exhibit both neural network learning and a hive mind.

Neural network learning focuses on pattern recognition. This could be taking a photograph of a person’s face and comparing it will a database of known faces or listening to a person speak and then writing out what they just said in complete grammatically correct sentences.

A hive mind sounds exotic, but the neurons in the human brain form a hive mind.

The robots in this novel communicate with one another routinely in making decisions, although the exact decision criteria are not given. Alpha robots get a greater weight the decision process, but the way this works is left to the imagination. Why the hive adds to the decisions of a single robot is unclear because they all share similar, but not exactly the same, software. Perhaps, the algorithms yield different results because individual robots experience different experiences that are themselves not shared.

Robotic Personalities

My nickname for a certain politician was “Robo-VP” because he spoke with relatively little emotion, as if he inhabited another planet. In this novel, the robots lack the emotional intelligence to distinguish subtle human emotions, jokes, puns, and sarcasm. Second or third level meanings would go undetected allowing humans under their control to speak truth to one another and not be understood by the robots.

As such, it is unclear whether these neuromorphs could actually pass the Turing test.

The Turing test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.[2]

Robotic Independence

In order for the Neuomorphs to murder their human masters and loot their savings, their programs had to be altered to allow them to behave independently. This independence leads them to begin organizing as a group and to turn on the Russian mobsters and the programmers who set them free. This independence is ultimately their undoing as they insisted on greater independence, the characteristics programmed into them—the six deadly sins—also leads them to question and turn on their fellow robots.

Assessment

Dennis Meredith’s The Neuomorphsis a page turner with lots of technical details about robots and their software. Having spent a lot of years programming software, I found these technical details scary credible, adding to the suspense. Christian readers may flinch at the robots designed as mechanical prostitutes and the foul language used throughout the book. I accepted a free copy of this book from the author because the plot seemed compelling and I knew I had a week’s vacation coming up to read it.

Footnotes

[1]http://DennisMeredith.com/Dennis-Meredith-bio_269.html. @ExplainResearch.

[2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test.

Meredith: Robots Gone Wild

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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